|Pouring it on for the finish (center, in black)|
For the second year in row, the snow has forced Snowflake Run participants off of the boardwalk. Last year it was an issue of volume, there was so much snow and ice on the boardwalk that it became both dangerous and impassible. This year it was a steady but light snowfall that would have been too slippery for fast running. So, once again, we found ourselves lining up on Broadway for this four mile race.
Last weekend I ran intervals on the treadmill in the hope of being ready to go out hard this weekend. That must have helped because I achieved a new 4 mile PR this morning and beat my prior PR by over a minute. Team Emerging Runner accompanied me this year and, aside from some difficulties finding a parking spot, the event went very well.
We arrived about 30 minutes from start time and when I walked into the gym to pick up my race number, I was surprised to see so many people milling around. The room smelled strongly of perspiration and adrenaline and against one wall was a slide show accompanied by blaring music. I headed to the rest room after visiting registration and saw a long line of of women waiting patiently. The men’s room line went quickly and soon I was back to my family in the gym.
My fuel of choice for the race was GU Roctane and as it got closer to race time, I had some Ghiradelli 72% cocoa dark chocolate to top me off. I’d just run into my friend Steve who was running with me and I gave him some chocolate for a pre-race boost. Steve had his wife and their two little ones at the race and everyone was in good spirits despite the cold, wet weather.
We lined up fairly close to the start line to get a good take-off position. Steve and I learned a lesson last year when we were forced into a narrow path between the snow and parked cars. That situation produced so much crowding that we could barely exceed a trot for the first couple of minutes.
|A fast start as the snow came down|
Before too long, we were off and running. My Garmin had gone into energy saver mode so I wasn’t able to start my timing until I’d run a few hundred feet. Once that was resolved, I focused on staying with a fast crowd of front runners who I’d hoped would sweep me up and carry me along.
My friend Steve disappeared into the crowd almost immediately and I figured I’d see him at the turnaround or at the finish line. The group surrounding me was running at a faster pace than I could sustain, but I did my best and hoped to pass the first mile one under 8:20. When I saw the timing clock I was amazed to see that I’d actually clocked 7:54 for mile one.
I must have passed Steve just before that point because he told me later that he came through around 8:05. My goal was to preserve as much of that first mile pace as I could, and I settled into a rhythm that I thought I could maintain throughout the race. My splits were 7:54, 8:43, 8:34 and 8:39. I bounced around a little, but I didn’t suffer from progressively positive splits as I’ve done in the past.
It’s a nice crowd of runners who participate in these Long Beach races. None of that obnoxious posturing I’ve seen other places. That isn’t to say this crowd is any less competitive. If anything, I think this race fields a deeper pool of speedy runners than I’ve seen elsewhere.
Having run this course last year, I knew what to expect in terms of progress and effort. I ran hard but I probably could have pushed more into the middle miles. I wanted to make sure I had enough energy to finish strongly and I’m pleased with the way things turned out.
Once I passed two miles, I reminded myself that I had less than half the distance to go. The rate of people who passed me had slowed down to the point where I was running mostly with those who ran about my pace. I used the guy in front of me as a pacer through most of the last mile. Once I saw the finish chute, about three blocks in the distance, I dropped a gear and gave it my best of the day.
As I approached the finish line I could see my wife and kids cheering me on, but the clock atop the chute was reading 16:00, so I feared that the timing system wasn’t working. My Garmin showed that I’d come in under 34 minutes, so I knew I’d done well. It turned out that the actual race clock was positioned low and to the left, so I’d missed it.
I assumed Steve had already finished, but discovered that he hadn’t yet come through. He came crossed the line about a minute later – an impressive effort for someone who hadn’t really run much over the prior few months. We went back to the gym to see our results posted and I saw that I’d crossed the line in 33:50, for a pace of 8:28 and a new PR.
Steve and I went back out and watched the runners streaming across the line while the snow continued to fall. I had been concerned that the wet surface would be too slippery for my Hattori’s, but that wasn’t an issue. However, the shoe’s lack of insulation was a big issue and I couldn’t feel my toes for most of the race. I’ll have to remember that the next time I wear them in cold, wet conditions.
So, my first race of 2012 went very well and I’m enjoying the great feeling that comes from a sustained effort like a race. I’ll probably go out for a very easy run tomorrow and start thinking about my strategy for my next two races, one short (5K) and the other long (13.1 miles). In the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the moments from today’s events.